Tag Archives: Women on Lead

Women on Lead: An Interview with the Setters of Austin Bouldering Project

In November 2015, the largest bouldering gym in the United States opened in Austin, Texas. With 50,000 square feet the Austin Bouldering Project (or ABP as it’s known by locals) shattered records. And who better to take on the job of head route setter for the massive gym than the former head route setter of their sister gym (Seattle Bouldering Project), Christine Deyo? Deyo started her setting career in Seattle and quickly moved up the ranks to become head setter before being asked to interview for the position in Austin. In Texas, Deyo is one of only 2 female head setters at the 10+ commercial gyms in the state. While a setter is in charge of putting up new routes or boulders each week, a head setter is in charge of overseeing the work of all the setters in the gym and for Christine, this includes a whopping 250 boulders in the gym at any one time, with 2 new sets going up each week.

While the setting community has historically been male dominated, these days more and more women are joining the crew. At ABP Caitlin Kirshbom and Chelsea McLofland also round out the team of 6 full time setters, a nice 50-50 ratio. I sat down to talk with Caitlin and Christine about their experiences. They have a lot of great insight into the plight of the female route-setter and a pretty refreshing viewpoint on gender dynamics in the community, plus some good advice for any setter–no matter your gender.

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Women on Lead: Interview with Jessica Mor, Founder of 3rd Rock

jess bouldering in Italy

Jess sporting a 3rd Rock sports bra that she designed

The climbing industry is full of innovative and creative people who use their talents to come up with ways that we climbers can have an even better experience on the wall. The past few decades have given us lighter gear, better and harder ways to train, and opened up countless new routes in beautiful places that will keep us climbing for as long as we could possibly want. And now, thanks to a fun new company out of the UK called 3rd Rock, we even get clothing designed specifically for climbing! We sat down with the founder of 3rd Rock, Jessica Mor, to learn a little more about the climbing-focused, responsibly-made clothing her company produces.

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Women on Lead: Interview with Hilary Harris, Founder of Evo Rock + Fitness

HH Evo Portland

Continuing our series celebrating Women on Lead, we have an interview with Hilary Harris, founder of Evo Rock + Fitness, which started in New Hampshire and has expanded to locations in Maine, Indiana, and soon, Colorado.  In today’s interview, she dishes on growing a business, the changing face of women in climbing over recent years, and more!

CXC:  Tell us a bit about your background as a climber.

HH: I started climbing in college, and have been climbing for almost 30 years.  I went to college at University of Colorado, and went with some friends and my little brother who was also getting into climbing at the time.  I had actually made the decision to go to University of Colorado because I loved skiing.  We used to joke that climbing was a good activity in the off season of skiing, but then it became a year-round activity and I got into climbing full-time. I graduated from college and went to Europe, where I honed my technique, trained with the German team, and climbed with some incredibly strong, inspirational climbers.  When I came back to the US, I was climbing hard routes and competing, but really preferred climbing hard routes so left the competition circuit.  At the time it was hard to make it as a professional climber, so I went back to school for architecture.

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Women on Lead: Cara Dozier, Owner of Virginia Beach Rock Gym

Cara Dozier

Cara and her family outside the Virginia Beach Rock Gym

Climbing gyms are perhaps the most valuable tool that we climbers have to build strength, improve technique, and prepare us physically and mentally to get out and crush on real rock. Gyms are probably where most of us started, and where a lot of people will end up staying, as indoor climbing quickly becomes a sport of its own. So while we love spending hours in these buildings with ever-changing routes, perfect conditions year-round, and an atmosphere that encourages and builds our beloved community, it’s easy to forget that climbing gyms are a business, and running one takes a lot of hard work. While it’s still a very male-dominated industry, more women are taking leadership roles in building these places up. As business owners, climbers, and very often wives and mothers, they juggle more than we would ever guess from the outside. Blending your passion and career is tough, but those who take it on are strong, confident–and they’re a force to be reckoned with.

I had the chance to sit down and chat with Cara Dozier, co-owner of the family-owned and operated Virginia Beach Rock Gym in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and one of those very women making an impact in the climbing community. Cara’s personality exudes kindness, warmth, and a very notable confidence, which serves her well in dealing with the challenges of owning a rock gym in a place as foreign to climbers as Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach isn’t exactly known for its climbing–it’s flat, featureless, and the closest elevation gain is about 4 hours away. Despite those challenges, Cara has spent almost her entire life helping to build the passionate and eager climbing community that exists here today.

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Women on Lead: Katie Ives, Editor-In-Chief of Alpinist Magazine

Katie Ives leading the way outside and in adventure media. Photo by Dylan Taylor.

Katie Ives leads the way in the Tetons and in outdoor media. Photo by Dylan Taylor.

This is the first in a series entitled “Women on Lead,” which highlights women who are shaping the climbing industry and climbing community as writers, thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs.

Mountaineering has often been hailed as the most ‘literary of all sports.’ While nowadays everyone is busy tweeting about their first ascents, we owe it to people like Katie Ives, Editor-in-Chief of the Alpinist, that there are still beautiful outlets for the thoughtfully printed word.

CXC: Katie, in college you already had a passion for literature and climbing. You chose a career that combines both. Tells us a bit about the milestones of your career. What was its most exhilarating move, the most challenging pitch?

KI: I’ve often thought that climbing teaches me how to write. When I was a graduate student in Iowa, my experiences on limestone cliffs helped me become more attuned to details: the light of the sky through a leafless November forest; the glint of crystals on the edge of an embedded fossil; the polished curve of a well-worn hold. Leading and soloing, I felt as though I could access parts of my unconscious mind and find new forms of creativity.

From my first day at Alpinist, I knew I was fortunate to be in a place that seemed like my literary home. I’ve learned from every writer whose work I’ve edited, gaining a sense of vast possibilities of ideas and styles. The span of time between the magazine’s bankruptcy in October 2008 and its relaunch in January 2009 was the most stressful in my career. I’m more grateful than ever, now, for the opportunities that I have.

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